It’s getting to be recital season, jury season, finals season. It’s getting to be near the end of the semester, when all those things that seemed SO far AWAY and unlikely to ever actually happen are suddenly less than a month away. That is TERRIFYING for a lot of people, I know. For musicians it can mean (combined with that musician-y trait of perfectionism) spending too much time practicing, too much time panicking, and not enough time doing basically anything else. Self care can take a backseat to stress.
If this describes you, think about it this way: even if you don’t care about maintaining your mental health as long as you get 1st chair, or pass that jury, or get accepted into that school, or get a 4.0, or WHATEVER, succeeding in that goal is 83000 times less likely if you are in the midst of an existential crisis or panic attack or even just a bad cold you caught because you weren’t taking care of yourself. (How’s that for a run-on sentence!)
So basically, self care and self-appreciation are hugely important, even when you’re panicking about all this stuff you suddenly have to do. Here’s some ways to do nice stuff for yourself as a musician.
Self Care Tips
Stop by this flowchart first, to make sure you are physically and mentally on firm ground. Honestly, this is the most likely thing to help. If you’re feeling gross and don’t know why, going through the stops outlined in this guide will help.
Write down one neat thing from the day in your planner/diary/bullet journal. I add quotes from my teachers sometimes, or just “I saw a squirrel” if nothing else good happened. Squirrels will always be there for you.
Eat one of your favorite fruits. Fruits are healthy and tasty and filled with enough sugar to give you a mood boost.
Schedule a counseling appointment at your school’s counseling center. Hey, even if it’s just to rant at someone impartial for a while, counseling appointments can help make you feel better. They have therapy dogs there sometimes!
Drink 8 ounces of water. Dehydration is one of the prime reasons I get headaches. Drink some water, take care of your body.
If you can, buy something that smells nice and set aside a time to use and enjoy it. It is important to take time for yourself, especially when you’re stressed. Nice smelling things are typically good. Combine these two facts and you have a nice time!
Go to sleep by the time you PROMISED yourself you would. If you have a schedule, you probably have a time you know you reeeeeally should be asleep by. If you’re like me, you also probably miss that time by an hour every night. Try to actually get to sleep by then and notice how much better you feel!
Take a nap!! Even if you don’t get to sleep on time, spending twenty minutes to an hour asleep can feel suuuuper nice. And that’s what self care is about, after all.
Take a day off. Not necessarily a day off from EVERYTHING, if that isn’t feasible. But do take a day off every so often from that thing that’s stressing you out. Burnout is a thing that happens, and it will happen much more quickly if you never take a break.
Take 5 minutes and run through this stretch routine. Musicians are athletes of the small muscles. I don’t know who told me that, but it is so so so true. Stretch regularly to maintain good posture, to prevent performance injuries, and to make yourself feel good!
Take some time to actually talk to friends. Maybe even friends who (gasp!) aren’t in the music program! But seriously, most music programs are basically one big weird family. It is TOTALLY possible to get sick of seeing the same 15 people all the time. Go spend some time with the friends you hang out with despite the fact that they don’t understand why double reed instruments are amazing/silly/awful (take your pick).
Take care of yourself! It’s rough out there for musicians sometimes – we don’t need to beat ourselves up anymore than our programs already do!